Harper Business Books: Setting the Agenda on Work, Leadership, and Growth

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Deep Purpose

The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies

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About the Book

A distinguished Harvard Business School professor explains why the serious pursuit of purpose can greatly enhance performance and social impact, and shows leaders how they might go deep on purpose and engineer a fundamental mindset shift in how they lead.

Too many companies today deploy purpose as a promotional vehicle to makes themselves feel virtuous and to look good to the outside world. Some have only foggy ideas about what a purpose is and conflate it with strategy and other concepts like “mission,” “vision,” and “values.” Even well-intentioned leaders don’t understand purpose’s full potential and thus engage half-heartedly and superficially with it. Outsiders spot this and become cynical about companies and the broader capitalist project.

Ranjay Gulati argues that the vast majority of companies can embed purpose much more deeply than they currently do, delivering impressive performance benefits that reward customers, suppliers, employees, and shareholders alike. But how can leaders tap purpose’s full possibilities and go deeper with it? How can they transform their organization's engagement with purpose from the latest, flavor-of-the-day corporate initiative into something truly meaningful, tangible, and transformative?

In this authoritative, accessible, and inspiring guide, Gulati uses numerous real-world case studies to deliver a fundamental rethinking of the concept and practice of purpose. He explores how leaders can pursue purpose more deeply by:

  • building supportive cultures that tap into individual passions and values
  • embracing a discipline of navigating tradeoffs in decision-making
  • updating organizations to foster more autonomy and collaboration
  • tapping into the firm’s history for inspiration
  • communicating the purpose in ways that rouse emotions and build a community of devotees
  • and more

To enhance their firms’ performance and deliver meaningful benefits to society, leaders must embrace purpose as a radically new operating system for the enterprise. As Gulati argues, putting people and the planet before profits isn’t naïve or misguided. It’s the kind of thinking businesses urgently need. The more leaders at large and small companies understand about the numerous benefits of purpose, and the more they embed it into their work and lives, the more dynamic, profitable, and impactful their firms will be.

About the Authors

Ranjay Gulati

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